Driven – the fabulous Fabia

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There’s no doubt that the design of Skoda’s ever-widening stable has come on on leaps and bounds over the years, as has the Czech car manufacturer itself. The Octavia, for example, has gone from strength to strength, not just in its build quality but also in terms of looks. The new Superb looks just that – superb, a hint of the higher-spec Audis creeping into its design.

The new Fabia is a lot like its elder brothers now, all sharp lines and strong curves, as Skoda seek to attract a more youthful buyer for their popular supermini. That’s also likely the reason behind the introduction of ColourConcept, which allows for some colour customisation of the wheels, side mirrors and the roof, a little similar to the Mini Paceman. The roof has been lowered by 3cm too, reducing its profile from awkward to more sporty, and reducing roll on the road.

Inside the Fabia is comfortable and more spacious than previous incarnations – the passenger compartment is longer and wider, while those in the front will benefit from extra headroom. It has a luggage capacity of 330L, among the largest in its class and rising to 1,150 with the rear seats folded. A number of compartments and pockets add to the feeling of extra space, as does the optional panoramic glass roof. The armrest doubles as an additional small compartment, but if you’re long of arm it can prove to be a bit of an annoyance when working the handbrake (a real handbrake, as opposed to a a switch).

The only real negative is the MirrorLink system that replicates your phone’s apps on the centre screen, currently only supporting some Android devices, but should provide for Apple CarPlay later this year. There are some troubles with the Wi-Fi signal, however, and this is also the only way to get sat nav on the centre console.

Otherwise the media centre includes an impressive array of radio stations and Bluetooth connectivity – you can play music wirelessly through your phone, although the USB slot was clearly having an off day and refused to read my phone and MP3 player. Another info screen in the centre of the instrument cluster displays media and vehicle info including driving data, all controlled from the slightly large but comfortable steering wheel. Thankfully Skoda opted for dashboard simplicity rather than information overload, as some car manufacturers have a tendency towards.

Our model was actually quite fun to drive given that it’s powered by a 90bhp 1.2TSI (petrol) engine, and surprisingly quick particularly when moving up through the lower gears, while the engine gurgles nicely when you put the foot down. Married to a smooth five-speed gearbox and a comfortable suspension that can easily negate regular bumps and potholes, it’s a relatively serene driving experience. It’s also a highly efficient one – we managed a combined 5.8L/100km (56mpg) and did roughly 670km on a full tank without driving too easy. That’s not half bad.

Prices start from €13,895 for the 1.0 MPI 60bhp Active model, rising to €21,295 for the 1.4 TDI 105bhp version. I’d suggest going for the Ambition level 1.2 TSI petrol version – in addition to the Active equipment you get a touch screen radio, front fog lamps, a speed limiter, Bluetooth, heated mirrors, rear disc brakes and increased storage space (storage box in the boot, drawers under the front seats and luggage pockets on the backrest). You’ll also get a 110bhp petrol engine with plenty of poke (0-100 in 10.9 seconds), an annual tax bill of €190, and an overall price tag of €17,695.

Sharply styled with more personality and practicality, and good value for money – the new Fabia would appear to be another winner from Skoda.

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